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Mayor Bowser Calls on the Council to Restore Emergency Procurement Authority for the District’s COVID-19 Response

Monday, December 6, 2021
As the Pandemic Evolves and Supply Chain Issues Continue, DC Health Needs the Ability to Respond Quickly

(Washington, DC) – Mayor Muriel Bowser is calling on the Council of the District of Columbia to immediately restore the District Government’s emergency procurement authority so that responding agencies can quickly access resources that support an ongoing COVID-19 response and recovery. Restoring the emergency procurement authority would bring the District in line with both the federal emergency declaration and the District’s public emergency. This authority is critical to DC Health being able to immediately respond to any potential surge in cases and prepare for an enhanced posture for increased COVID-19 testing.

Emergency procurements are used for vital functions that need to be mobilized very quickly. Most recently, for example, emergency procurement authority would have helped DC Health be at the front of the line to purchase highly sought-after rapid at-home tests. Currently, DC Health is awaiting approval to purchase rapid at-home tests. With emergency procurement authority, the agency would have been able to place this order by now.

The Council extended the Mayor’s authority to declare a public emergency until January 7, 2022, yet ended emergency procurement authority on November 5. Without this authority, the District is hampered in its ability to quickly compete with larger jurisdictions in procuring COVID-19-related supplies, equipment, and labor. Any delays in restoring the District’s ability to quickly procure vital resources creates an unnecessary risk to residents. This risk is compounded by an unpredictable and volatile supply chain which has led to global shipping delays.

Other examples of instances in which the District has or planned to use emergency procurement authority include:

  • Setting up new vaccination sites requiring staff, IT systems, and additional resources that are frequently needed at the last minute to adapt to neighborhood needs.
  • Purchasing advanced software systems used by the Contact Trace Force which must be constantly updated as we onboard new testing facilities and IT innovations such as our digital vaccination record. Each update and change requires additional procurement actions which if delayed will hold up release dates.
  • Procuring enough Test Yourself Kits so that schools can send them home with students and staff who need to quarantine.
  • Purchasing resources needed to keep District residents informed including health literacy messaging and outreach campaigns. An evolving pandemic requires DC Health to utilize new tools and tactics, and rapidly deploy messaging through communication channels such as text messages, direct mail, phone calls, printed materials, and media buys.

Mayor Bowser strongly encourages the Council to restore the District’s emergency procurement authority and to continue working in partnership with the Executive to prioritize the needs of DC residents.